There have been some pretty great mystic frauds, or other occultist fakes, spiritualists or soothsayers who falsely commune with the supernatural, out there over the years. Mother Shipton. John Dee. A host of False Messiahs. Christian Rosenkreuz. Nostradamus. Nicholas Culpeper. Madame la Voisin. Emanuel Swendenbourg. The Count of St. Germain. Count Alessandro di Cagliostro. Sir Francis Dashwood. Adam Weishaupt. Franz Mesmer. Francis Barrett. Marie Laveau. The Fox Sisters. Eliphas Levi. Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Daniel Dunglas Home. Cheiro. Albert Pike. Paschal Beverly Randolph. Madame Blavatsky. Max Heindel. Grigori Rasputin. George Gurdjieff. Eva Carriere. Rudolf von Sebottendorf. Edgar Cayce. Wilhelm Reich. Dion Fortune. Harvey Spencer Lewis. Margaret Murray. Uri Geller. George and Kathy Lutz. Ed and Lorraine Warren. L. Ron Hubbard. Anton LaVey.
Some readers may disagree with this list, but the people here have all been seriously challenged with regard to their claims of psychic or mystical power, or regarding the authenticity of their spiritual experiences. It comes with the territory. Harry Houdini, the great illusionist and magician, notably challenged, investigated and debunked many of his 'psychic' contemporaries. His stunts were incredible, but they were never labeled as more than that. It takes some conviction to pull off Houdini's level of trickery, but proclaim it to be real, a result of communing with a world beyond our own. Living as a False Prophet is not easy.
None of these characters - except perhaps Lord Byron - could hold a candle to Aleister Crowley.
Some critics attribute Crowley's activities to a serious childhood injury with an exploding firework. After the accident, which left him in a coma, he awoke with the trademark unbridled vanity and occult interests that later convinced followers. It takes incredible egotistical authority, a great deal of esoteric knowledge, and sheer raw power of spirit, to pull off the kind of fakery that leaves behind throngs of followers, worshiping new gods.
Plenty of people take Aleister Crowley seriously as a modern pioneer in the occult philosophies. Others say he was a fraud. Was he really "the wickedest man in the world?" - the self-proclaimed "Great Beast"? He indulged in a wide variety of drugs, self-harm, scatalogical activities, and weird magical rites to get to the other side, which you can read about at this very critical site, or this one. Whether that made him an actual seer, sorcerer, psychic or dark spiritual leader is debatable. It might all have been one giant act of mind-boggling self-indulgence. His critics think he was simply psychotic. C. J. Stone writes: "That theatrical old occultist of the early 20th century, Aleister Crowley, had a slogan. It was: 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.'" He dug around in archaic and pre-Christian lore, superstitions, masonic material, eastern philosophies to back up that basic tenet. He had a hyper-modern, almost artistic, sense of dramatic symbolism and semiotics. People who follow his ideas are known as Thelemites (you can see an informal, sympathetic forum comment on Crowley from a Thelemite here). He had an enormous impact on Postmodern New Age philosophies, cults and non-mainstream religions.
But personally, I feel that Crowley was a person who got very, very far with an almost bottomless bad character and a lot of ego.
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